Mustang Marriages 2024: Partners for Life

They arrived at SMU Dedman School of Law seeking a top-notch education. They left with that—and a partner for life. 

Happy Valentine’s Day from SMU Dedman Law and from these lawyers in love!

Barbara ’76 and Mike Lynn ’75

It all started with free pretzels and beer. Over 50 years ago, and even before law school, a Mustang Marriage between two future legal powerhouses was born. In 1970, Barb was in the first class of women to start as first-year students at the University of Virginia. Mike had been at UVA for two years, with very few women in attendance, so he was “a bit of a dating machine,” he says with a smile. That came to an abrupt halt when he met the “cute ball of energy” we now know as the Honorable Barbara M.G. Lynn.

Mike had very little money for dates, so every Friday at 7:29 p.m. he took Barb to the meetings of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, which featured spirited debate and oratory as well as the afore-mentioned free beer and pretzels. Barb could attend, but she could not join, much to their shared dismay. To circumvent the bylaws and break a deadlock with the members that did not want to admit women, Mike came up with a brilliant idea. When those opposed to co-education went to Mardi Gras, Mike called a special meeting. The bylaws were amended, the deadlock was broken by one vote, and Barb was admitted. Mike’s political future in the Jefferson Society was over, but he got a wife out of it. As he puts it, “it was a fair trade.” The rest, as they say, is history.

At SMU Law, Barb and Mike took over their favorite tables on the second floor of Underwood Law Library where Barb would study diligently while Mike launched paper planes at her. They were founding members of the Association of Women Law Students, competed together in Mock Trial, and were both on law review, but not at the same time.

For fun during law school, they would go to a movie and their favorite bar, the Railhead, where they could listen to music and nurse one drink all evening – all funded by Mike’s “diving” to collect glass bottles from the dumpster behind their apartment and return them for spending money. “For about five bucks, we could go to the movies and have a long, slow drink,” they reminisce.

The days of dumpster diving and free beer are now a distant memory for these two icons of the Dallas legal community. Barb has been a federal district judge in the Northern District of Texas for 24 years and was the first female Chief Judge in the State of Texas. Mike formed his own firm in 1993, the preeminent commercial litigation boutique Lynn, Pinker, Hurst & Schwegmann, and has tried to verdict more than 120 civil and criminal jury trials. They have two children, Tara and Whitney, and are the proud grandparents of three granddaughters and one grandson.

Their advice to today’s law school couples is to “lean on each other, read each other’s practice exams, and remember to have some fun. Law school 24/7 is too much.” Mike and Barb have been married for 50 1/2 years so that is advice worth taking!

Kit ’93 and Kemp Sawers ’93

Proof that lawyers are planners: Kit wanted to get married on New Year’s Eve, so yes, she did in fact book the church before she and Kemp were even engaged. A call from the church office alerted Kemp to his impending wedding date, and a few months later he proposed!

“A happy ending, but he still loves to give me a hard time about this,” laughs Kit.

Although they met at the beginning of law school, they weren’t in the same 1L section and Kit and Kemp didn’t start dating until the second semester of their first year. They don’t remember who made the first move, but they know their first date was dinner at Kathleen’s Art Café on Lovers Lane and then to see a movie.

“Dinner was good, the movie was terrible, and there was some concern about Kemp’s (very) used Subaru possibly breaking down along the way,” they recall.

As they navigated their law school years together, they spent most of their free time with friends at The Barley House (the original location on Henderson, for those familiar with Dallas in the early 90s), listening to Grateful Dead music at Club Dada on Saturday afternoons, and eating comfort food at Snuffer’s on Sundays.

For couples currently in law school, Kit and Kemp advise “keep your relationship and the law separate. Law school is stressful enough with studying, exams, etc., and the last thing you want to do is bring that stress into your relationship. Talk about other things together. Do other things together. This applies to your post-school legal career as well. Leave work at work, and use your time at home to focus on what makes your relationship special.”

This sage advice has certainly served them well. Kit is President and CEO of Klyde Warren Park, which has become Dallas’ beloved town square, and Kemp is the President of Uptown Capital Advisors, an investment advisory and financial planning firm. Married for nearly 30 years, they share two daughters, Annie and Elizabeth, and are now thriving in work and life as empty nesters.

Bryan Kelly ’19 and Sam Gaiss ’19

Fun fact: Sam is still in Bryan’s phone as “Sam Gaiss—inn 😊” which she put in his phone on the very first day of 1L orientation. “Bryan looked smart, and I thought he would be a good person to befriend,” Sam laughs. They were sitting next to each other when Dean Yeager made his famous comment, “Look to your left and right because you may be sitting next to your future spouse” – turns out they were!

Sam and Bryan became fast friends, started a study group, got cold-called while sitting next to each other in CivPro their first week as 1Ls, and won first place in the annual law school chili cookoff (Bryan's recipe, Sam’s decorations). They took all the same classes as 1Ls and tried to schedule at least one class together every semester after.

They hung out with friends, went to the Ft. Worth Rodeo and Dallas Stars games, played intramurals together, and once a week (or more) would go to Half Shells in Snider Plaza for oyster nachos and a drink. “It was rare that you saw Sam without Bryan or Bryan without Sam,” they say. But they were just friends.

They graduated law school together in 2019, but their first date was not until 2021 when Bryan made the first move, asking Sam to be his date to the wedding of their law school classmates and close friends, Maddie Bailey (’19) and Lukas Moffett (’19). At the time, Sam was living in St. Augustine, Florida working in compliance at Barwick Banking Company after a two-year clerkship in the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix), and Bryan was still in Texas, practicing law in Fort Worth. Fast forward from that first date in 2021 to a wedding in May 2023, to finding out two months later they had a baby on the way! “In the past three years, we have managed to date, get engaged, get married, and get pregnant,” they laugh. Their baby girl is due in March 2024.

Sam and Bryan now live in Fort Worth with their dog Jack where Bryan practices construction law at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP and Sam works remotely leading the mortgage compliance department for Barwick Banking Company. They love to visit family and spend time at the beach in Florida, where they hope to spend time this summer with their new baby.

Their advice for couples surviving law school together is to remember to be friends first. “Throughout our three years, we were each other's constant, each other's best friend, and moral support. Law school may be a grind, but it also creates lasting, meaningful relationships with amazing individuals turned lifelong friends,” they say. And - who knows - even if it is six years after you meet on the first day of 1L orientation, you just might marry your best friend.

Jennifer '02 and Jared Pope '04

A glance across the library in the fall of 2000 led to a lasting romance for Jennifer and Jared Pope. Since they were in different law school years, Jennifer and Jared didn’t have any classes together and had not met. But once that spark flew, they did what law students do best: “we both ended up doing our own research to uncover our names,” says Jennifer! They finally connected at a law school happy hour at the end of the fall semester, and a first date to Houston’s in Preston Center (now Hillstone) soon followed. “We talked all night about our backgrounds, families and, of course, law school!” they laugh.

Jennifer and Jared were both busy and involved students, yet each carved their own identity and path through law school. Jared was involved in moot court and the Tax Clinic, while Jennifer co-chaired the SBA Mentor Program and was on the International Law Review. They studied together but also prioritized cooking together and going to the movies on the weekends “to get a break from school and just enjoy each other’s company,” says Jennifer.

Speaking of cooking, their engagement story “was like a scene from Meet the Fockers,” Jared says. He knew how much Jennifer’s family appreciated good food, and Jared was quite the cook. To impress her parents before he asked her dad for her hand in marriage, Jared asked if he could make his specialty, steak au poivre. “If you're handy around the kitchen, then you know that steak au poivre involves cognac and an impressive flambé ... what you don't know, and I didn’t know until it was too late, is that my future hope-to-be-in-laws have a fire alarm right above their cooktop in the kitchen!” Jared remembers.

Even though the evening involved a fireball, a very loud fire alarm, frantic waving of flames and smoke, and a future father-in-law sporting a Robert Deniro-esque frown, her dad said yes the next day, and the rest is history. “I haven't made steak au poivre at their house since!” he laughs.

Jennifer and Jared got married in June of 2006 and now have one company and two teenagers between them. When they are not attending weekend sporting events with their son and daughter, they run the company they founded, Work Shield. Work Shield provides comprehensive workplace misconduct solutions that empower organizations to proactively foster a culture of trust and compliance. Jennifer and Jared credit their legal education at SMU Dedman Law with allowing them to successfully “combine both our legal and business acumen to create a company that is making workplaces safer.”

Their best advice to current law school couples is to seek balance. “Take date nights, engage in activities together, and make sure to also balance personal time with couple time.” Now that is a recipe for a lasting partnership.